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Nexus 5 vs Moto X

Andrew Williams

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Moto X vs Nexus 5
Moto X vs Nexus 5

The Nexus 5 and Moto X are the two top Android phones from Google and Motorola. They are two of the purest Androids you can get, lacking the custom interfaces that ruin some phones.

But which one is better? Each phone has their strong points, but there's a pretty clear winner in this battle if you care about value. Read on to find out which comes out top.

Design – Moto X is smaller, slightly nicer

Nexus 5 - Plastic, Gorilla Glass 3, 8.6mm thick

Moto X - Plastic, Gorilla Glass 3, 10.4mm thick

The Motorola Moto X is a good deal smaller than the Nexus 5, despite having an only slightly smaller screen. It’s primarily down to the Moto X’s approach to screen bezel design. It has tried to make the screen fill up as much of the front of the phone as possible – and that includes below the screen as well as to its sides.

As a result, the Moto X is just under a centimetre shorter than the Nexus 5 – it’s 129mm to the Nexus’s 138mm height. It is also a little narrower, at 65mm while the Nexus 5 is 69mm wide.

SEE ALSO: Motorola Moto G review

Moto X

This size difference makes the Motorola phone a little easier to manage, and means it fills up a bit less of your pocket. However, the Nexus 5 is a lot thinner. It is 8.6mm thick while the Motorola is a relatively chunky 10.4mm.

There’s not a huge perception of difference in thickness, though, because the Motorola Moto X has a curvy back that hides the bulge pretty well. It comes across more as ‘small’ than fat.

Both phones are made primarily out of plastic, each using a soft touch finish that feels great. Neither phone is aesthetically perfect, though. They have fairly evident seams (which we imagine makes repairing easier) and generally pedestrian looks. Some of the edges of the Nexus 5 are a little sharper and harsher, giving the Moto X slightly better ergonomics.

Nexus 5

Screen – Nexus 5 is sharper, more accurate

Nexus 5 - 5-inch 1080p LCD screen

Moto X - 4.7-inch 720p OLED screen

The Nexus 5 has a slightly larger screen than the Moto X, at five inches to the Motorola’s 4.7. Although not a huge difference, it’s enough to make sure the Nexus is a bit better to watch movies on.

Its display is a little more dazzling in general too. Whites are whiter, top brightness is a bit higher and resolution is much stronger in the Nexus. The Moto X only has a 720p screen – fairly low resolution for phone that sells for just under £400 at this point. Its colours are also a bit oversaturated, giving the Nexus 5 a more natural look.

Where the Motorola excels is in looking good in dark rooms. It has an OLED screen, which brings near-perfect black levels in the right conditions. Its illumination is also more even, where our Nexus 5 is a bit brighter at the edge of the screen.

Considering the various aspects of screen performance, though, we think the Nexus 5 has the stronger display.Moto X screen

Storage – 16/32GB, neither expandable

Nexus 5 - 16/32GB

Moto X - 16/32GB

The Nexus 5 and Moto X are almost exactly the same in storage terms. You can choose between 16GB and 32GB versions, and there’s no way to upgrade the memory. Unlike a few years ago, Android is no guarantee of a microSD memory card slot.

With a 16GB edition, you get 12GB of user-accessible memory – true for both phones.

Power – Nexus 5 is much faster

Nexus 5 - quad-core Snapdargon 800 CPU, 2GB RAM

Moto X - dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU, 2GB RAM

The Nexus 5 is a lot faster than the Moto X. There’s really no competition on this one.

The Google phone has a Snapdragon 800 processor, the Moto X a Snapdragon S4 Pro chip. Phone chips developed from the Snapdragon S4 Pro to the Snapdragon 600 to the Snapdragon 800 – making the Nexus 5 two ‘mini generations’ ahead of the Moto X.

It shows in benchmarks too, where the Nexus 5 wipes the floor with the Moto X. In our own Geekbench 3 tests, the Moto X comes out with about 1,200 points, the Nexus 5 2,700. It is simply much, much more powerful.

It is not something we notice hugely in day-to-day use, though. Both phones are quite quick and can handle high-end 3D games like Real Racing 3. However, the Moto X is likely to show signs of age quicker than the Nexus.

It may have a lower-resolution screen that is less demanding of the processor, but the Nexus is so much more powerful that it is still ahead.

Nexus 5

Nexus 5

Software – Nexus 5 has newer UI, quicker updates

Nexus 5 - Android 4.4 with Google Experience UI

Moto X - Android 4.4 with minor Motorola tweaks

The Nexus 5 and Motorola Moto X both have Android 4.4 KitKat, the latest version of the Android OS at the time of writing. However, they have completely different interfaces.

And – oddly enough – this isn’t down to a custom Motorola UI, as it would be with most other Android phones. They both have fairly vanilla takes on Android.

What the Nexus 5 has is a new sort-of experimental interface called Google Experience. You won’t find it on any other Android phones fresh out of the box – although it is actually hidden on phones with Android 4.1 and newer. Find out how to get it on the Motorola in our Moto X tips and tricks article.

The Nexus 5 interface has a brighter, simpler, cartoony look that we think is pretty good. It hides the widget interface too, which is handy when we hardly use it in the Moto X.

Another benefit of the Nexus 5 is that it will get faster updates than the Moto X. Where they’ll go straight to Nexus devices, Motorola will have to fiddle with the new Android updates and prepare its own new update for phones like the Moto X, though Motorola claims it will do this faster than any other phone brand.

Moto XMoto X

Camera – Nexus 5 is punchier, but they are quite even

Nexus 5 - 8MP, LED flash

Moto X - 10MP, LED flash

When the Nexus 5 arrived, we had a mixed opinion about its camera. It could produce good shots, but it was held back by annoying shutter lag and terrible overall speed. This has been improved with an update, but the Moto X is still a bit faster with around 3fps burst shooting. It also has a more intuitive interface – the camera app is one of the few bits Motorola has customised, rather than using the standard Android software.

In photographic terms they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. The Nexus 5 photos are a bit sharper, but the Moto X offers superior dynamic range. The Nexus 5 is better in low-light conditions thanks to its optical image stabilisation but exposure is generally more even with the Moto X. They are both flawed, but pretty decent cameras.

The Moto X has superior specs, though – with a 1/2.6-inch sensor that's larger than the 1/3.2 sensor of the Nexus 5. It also has a higher megapixel count. It has 10, the Nexus 5 eight. Of course, that extra resolution doesn't really shine out much in the resulting photos.

For the best results, both phones need to use their excellent HDR modes. HDR combines multiple exposures to increase detail and even out exposure in scenes with tricky lighting.

Price and Value – Nexus 5 is cheaper, better value

Nexus 5 - Starts at £299

Moto X - Starts at £379

The Nexus 5 is a bit cheaper than the Moto X SIM-free. It starts at £299 (16GB edition) where the Moto X costs £379 for the 16GB version. Given the Nexus has a higher resolution screen and a much faster processor, the Nexus 5 is clearly the better-value phone.

There is also a cost discrepancy on contract. From Carphone Warehouse, which offers deals from the main mobile networks, Moto X deals start at £25 a month. Nexus 5 deals start at £21 a month – a £4 difference adds up over a two-year contract.

Verdict

In some respects these phones are quite similar. They're not as flashy as something like the HTC One, and they have vanilla or near-vanilla versions of the Android software running the show. However, we can't ignore that the Nexus 5 is a much more powerful phone that is cheaper. It'll also get Android updates more quickly than the Motorola phone. All this means it gets our vote.

Next, read our Moto G vs Moto X comparison

Chazz Matthews

January 22, 2014, 7:50 pm

Great review. Too many people try to lump the Moto X and the Nexus 5 together, while you clearly showed the Nexus 5 is a top tier smartphone at a fantastic price (4.95", 1080p, 445 ppi, Snapdragon 800, OIS camera). The Moto X is a mid-tier phone, which actually costs more money.

Unbelievable the Moto X and LG G2 were both announced and released the same time, and were intially priced about the same (US $600). For US $600, the LG G2 wins every time. For the Nexus 5 (based on the G2) to be priced at US $350, the Nexus 5 really wins every time over the Moto X. Motorola has now dropped the price of the Moto X to more reasonable levels (US $399), but it's still not in the same hardware league as the Nexus 5/LG G2. And still loses on price.

Josh Cook

January 22, 2014, 9:20 pm

It's like comparing a gorgeous blonde to a gorgeous brunette....I mean who cares. They are both amazing phones.

Nicholas Costa

January 23, 2014, 12:06 am

This review is a spec review and nothing more. Whoever wrote it has not used a moto x for very long. The moto x clearly has the better software. You didn't even mention the main selling points of the phone! Literally the worst, most biased review I have ever read.

Nicholas Costa

January 23, 2014, 12:08 am

How is this a great review? This is single handedly the worst review I have ever read. You and the author are clearly spec whores

DoctorJB

January 23, 2014, 1:09 am

Really should mention MotoX's active notifications and always on speech recognition. These are the key features of the MotoX. The Nexus 5 has a multicolor notification LED but it's nowhere near as useful at the active notifications. The Nexus 5 has voice recognition at home screens but it won't wake from sleep like the MotoX. And like you mention, there's not a significant difference in performance (other than in benchmarks). The end user has to decide if they are willing to exchange horsepower for a smarter phone.

needa

January 23, 2014, 3:15 am

When I see a review like this that says it has a better screen and a faster processor so it must be better... I generally tend to write it off as a tech blogger that has no clue. For instance... The moto x just wiped the floor on lte radio throughput. Meaning it gets and hold much better signal. It has a 9v audio amplifier pushing a speaker that is so good that it picks up metal objects. You can customize the look. You get the spotlight player. You get constant app updates to improve the camera, migrate, active notifs, assist, etc. You can now migrate your ios cloud crap. It doesn't get near as hot thanks to proper engineering behind the build. The last update, kit kit, actually came days quicker to the x than it did all other nexus devices. Although moto has not given us the point two update.
You either get a high end quality device from the ground up... Or you get a 1080p and snap 800 with everything else slapped together.

vinosp

January 23, 2014, 5:05 am

Fun to see google battle google.
I would love to be a fly on the wall in Motorola's board meetings.

jtroye32

January 23, 2014, 5:21 am

The Nexus 5 isn't just "slapped together". It's well built and for me is the phone of choice. The image retention/burn in that becomes progressively worse over time with current AMOLED technology is a deal breaker all by itself and you WILL have it to some degree
even if you don't want to admit it. Also, the built in wireless charging on the N5 is a huge convenience that I never thought would be, which the X lacks. The bigger and higher res screen obviously means a battery life trade-off.. but with envelope tracking and DSP tunneling helping I always have enough to last me until bed time with over 5 hours screen time. The active notifications and always listening are nice features on the Moto X, but won't significantly increase my experience over the N5. To each his own though.

needa

January 23, 2014, 6:15 am

actually it kind of is. while i cannot comment fully on the 2013 line-up. i can comment on 2012 and prior. the amount of engineering it takes to build a quality piece of equipment just isnt there when talking about a nexus. there is a lack of shielding all the way around. the internal parts are extremely cheap. <--in order to hit the price point with high end screen and soc. and the engineering behind the build really is sub par. it is what it is.
as far as the charging. i found that the n4 would easily overheat when charging. there is a pretty substantial loss of heat when charging like that. and the heat has to go somewhere. generally that heat seems to be in the receiving magnet. just degrading the battery minute by minute. this isnt a nexus issue for me as it is an issue with any phone charging without wires over a 1a or more connection. nokia did it right more or less with their extremely slow 300 or 500ma charger. it just took forever.

Chazz Matthews

January 23, 2014, 12:16 pm

Because great specs + great software = winner. The Nexus 5 came first with KitKat. Mid-range specs + great software to overcome mediocre specs can be a good phone. But the Nexus 5 is BEST.

Oh, and costs LESS.

Nicholas Costa

January 23, 2014, 12:34 pm

There's a 50 dollar difference in price meaning you can get a 16 gb moto x for the same price as a 32gb nexus 5. The nexus 5 hardware may be better on paper but it feels cheap and there are clearly issues with some components. But at the end of the day the moto x clearly has the better software. Plus it got kit kat before the nexus 4 or 7. And the g2 is a great phone but at present time is more expensive, rivaling touchwiz for the worst, most convoluted and ugly ui on the market. Only spec whores give a crap about any of those numbers on paper. That's why the g2 is selling like shit and there's so much buzz about the moto x.

jtroye32

January 23, 2014, 5:11 pm

I'm talking about the Nexus 5 here. Each generation has been an improvement over the last. And the internals aren't extremely cheap, they're just not the best available. There is nothing about this thing that gives me the impression they threw together parts from the scrap pile, and you can read the reviews to confirm. Wireless charging on the N4 was a bit touchy and the phone itself did not have very good thermal dissipation. They have fixed this with the N5 as I have not noticed any significant heat increase with wireless charging over normal corded charging. Charging times are fairly similar too, I have no complaints about speed when wirelessly charging using a 1 Amp wireless charger.

The N4 was no slouch, but the 5 has improved/corrected most of the flaws and I will not hesitate recommending it as the best bang for your buck phone you can get brand new currently.

Orion

January 23, 2014, 10:11 pm

Difficult decision either way. Her in the U.S. the Nexus is 399.00 for 32 and the Moto X is 449.00. Think I'll buy both...

rweb82

January 23, 2014, 11:04 pm

All the reviews I've seen have shown that the Moto X loads YouTube videos, web pages, and certain apps faster than the Nexus 5. In benchmarks, the Nexus 5 kills the Moto X. But in everyday use, it seems to be a wash- with the Moto X being actually faster in some scenarios.

Imani

January 24, 2014, 2:04 pm

You know what? THANK YOU! lol. Seriously, I'm deciding (for a late bday present to myself) on these two, and this article really didn't help... I mean, the specs, I can get those listed and reviewed everywhere. I came here, under the pretense I would get a honest, unbiased, blow by blow (aka real time day to day use) review on both products. I really don't feel like I got that from this article, and felt like I was the only one!

Teabagging

February 24, 2014, 9:36 pm

After reading this review and reading the discussion below I feel that there is more value in the discussion than in the review itself. Having switched from an LG G2 to a Moto X I can attest that specs aren't everything. The engineers at Motorola really put some thought in the Moto X and regardless of what you see on paper what all of this boils down to is user experience. Now if you like the fluffy touchwiz, LG or HTC sense UI then great, my points aren't targeted at you. However, if you want to compare the N5 to the Moto X and are a big fan of stock android then there are some clear differences in the device. For those of you who feel more is better (faster processor, bigger screen) then the Nexus 5 is your device. If you are about the user experience, efficient OS and intuitive features that actually work with your day-to-day use of your phone, then the Moto X is the way to go. I would be interested to know how many of those people dissing the Moto X have actually used/owned one. I would pose this challenge to those of you who have never used an Moto X, try it for at least 2-3 weeks and see if you can go back to your old phone. I would be willing to wager that the Moto X stays after that test run.

Daniel Teixeira

April 2, 2014, 7:34 pm

Oh man, I've seen much more biased reviews in brazillian sites.

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